Though we don't live in the nation's sunniest state, Minnesotans are getting melanoma skin cancer at an increasing rate.
New data from the Minnesota Department of Health show that from 2005 to 2009, melanoma rates increased by 35 percent for males and 38 percent for females.
"If not found early, melanomas can spread to other parts of the body and can be deadly," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "For Minnesotans the main risk for sun exposure is in the summer, but we also want to remind people taking winter vacations that they risk serious health consequence, if they don't protect their skin from ultraviolet light."
The best protection against skin cancer is reduced exposure to natural ultraviolet light and tanning beds.
"The idea that it is a good health move to get a ‘base tan' before going on vacation is a myth," Ehlinger said. "Sunburns and exposure to the sun or tanning booths increase one's risk of cancer."
In 2009, about 1,460 Minnesotans were diagnosed with invasive melanoma of the skin, nearly three times more than were diagnosed in 1988, when tracking began. The increase is among all age groups.
To see interactive maps for melanoma rates by county and gender, go to Minnesota Department of Health.